Around the U.S., large and small communities are making preparations to commemorate the Civil War from 2011 to 2015. The City of St. Louis, which proved critical to the survival of the Union in the War Between the States, is no exception. No other event excepting our American Revolution has more powerfully impacted who we are as a nation or had more lasting repercussions. As I receive information pertaining to specific Civil War Commemorative Events I will be posting it in this blog.
Although no battles were fought within the city limits, three separate skirmishes between civilians and soldiers, involving gunfire and resulting in dead and wounded, led to martial law being declared in St. Louis in August of 1861 and lasting until the end of the war.
St. Louis was as hotly divided as any city in the nation in the years leading up to and during the Civil War and many factors contributed to a pot that simmered, figuratively and continuously, except when it came to a rolling boil.
During the early 1860s . . .
. . . 3 out of every 4 Missouri families were of Southern descent
. . . although slavery was unpopular in St. Louis, St. Louis was the largest market for slaves in the State of Missouri; with businesses engaged in slave trade located within a few blocks of the Old Courthouse, in all four directions (the most notorious of these specialized in children between the ages 5 and 16)
. . . St. Louis (1 of only 2 Missouri counties that helped elect Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency) had proportionately the largest immigrant population of any U.S. city; with notable exceptions, the Germans fought for the Union and the Irish, for the Confederacy – the allegiance of each group powerfully impacted by conditions in their homelands
. . . more than 50% of Missouri’s free blacks lived in St. Louis and less than 3% of Missouri’s slaves
. . . Confederate spies blew up steamboats carrying food, medical supplies and ammunition from St. Louis to Union troops in the South, some on the levee at St. Louis
. . . many St. Louis mothers, sisters and wives were imprisoned at Gratiot Street or Chestnut Street for sending clothing, letters, medicine to sons, brothers and husbands fighting for the Confederacy, thereby consorting with the enemy
. . . the Federal Arsenal of the West was located here and had it fallen to Secessionists the war might have ended very differently and had not James Eads built a flotilla of ironclads at Carondelet that led to the Union victory at Vicksburg.
Saturday, July 24th I will be conducting a 5 hour coach tour devoted to CIVIL WAR ST. LOUIS and some of the remarkable individuals who figured prominently in it – including two West Point alums, living here as civilians in 1861, who left St. Louis to become the greatest generals in the Union Army. One of them would be elected president after bringing the war to a close.
The Old Courthouse downtown is the central landmark around which St. Louis history revolves. Preserved by the Federal Government and presided over by the National Park Service, the Old Courthouse hosts many historical events among them, “An 1860 Fourth of July”. Park Ranger and Civil War re-enactor, Douglas Harding, kindly sent me the following information which includes this week-end’s Independence Day Celebrations at the Old Courthouse where the rotunda is wonderfully decked out for the nation’s birthday and for U.S. naturalization ceremonies.
One of the most interesting events scheduled is a “Wide Awake Political Rally” to be staged in Ely Luther Smith Park directly east of the Courthouse. Anyone who hasn’t stepped inside the Old Courthouse in awhile will find Saturday, July 3rd and Sunday, July 4th a perfect time to do so.